Why your employee magazine should be better than GQ

September 25, 2017

Okay maybe not exactly like GQ. But bear with me – there is some logic here!

When you wander into WH Smith’s and spend £5 on a magazine, you are buying it because you get something out of it; enjoyment, laughter, information, ideas on what to buy or what to listen or what to go see at the cinema.

Whatever the subject, you read it because there is something in it for you, it makes you feel good – otherwise why would you bother?

You could argue that employee magazines have a harder challenge than commercial magazines, because they are constantly trying to entice what we would describe as an unwilling audience to pick up and read them.

And when we are putting together an employee magazine, we must constantly ask ourselves: what’s in it for the readers?

There are lots of things that inform the content of employee magazines, the need to share company news, important announcements on policy changes, explaining strategy and company direction, recognising people or teams that have done great things in the business, but when we include this content in a magazine we need to be honest with ourselves and ask – what the readers motivation for actually looking at this?

Reading a employee mag isn’t mandatory, so what makes it killer content above all the other things jostling for attention in the lives of your employees?

Picture the scene – you are late waking up in the morning, you rush around getting yourselves fed and ready for school or nursery, when you arrive at work you spend 8-10 hours working your socks off.

You may not even get the time to have a full lunch break. When you get home it is (hopefully) quality time for yourself or your family and then, in theory, bedtime.

In this context can we honestly say that we think people will take the time to sit down and read their employers magazine if there is nothing in it for them?

Of course you can argue that employees do get something from corporate magazines – information that helps them be better at their jobs, updates on pensions and benefits schemes that will help them outside of work and later in life.

But in order to get them to read this we need to provide more killer content – the stuff they will really tune in for.

When you read a copy of GQ, most of it is advertising. Before you have even got to the main contents list you’ve had 10 to 15 pages of Burberry, Tom Ford and other fashion designers.

This is not why you buy the magazine; you buy it for Matt Damon on the front, or Prince Andrew or Cara Delevinge.

At first, the advertising is an annoyance, a distraction you flick through to the get the good stuff, but you still absorb it and, over time once you have read the main features, you might find yourself looking at it more for inspiration.

And maybe even making a purchase off the back of something you subconsciously flicked past in the magazine on your way to somewhere else.

I often think of the more corporate content in the same way as advertising – it is important, the magazine wouldn’t exist without it, but it isn’t going to be the thing on the cover that entices you to pick it up and read it.

It’s the people stories, the culture of your business, that people will buy into.

Then, once they have cherry-picked their favourite things to read first, they will find themselves coming back to that important content, and they will be prepared to look at it in good will because so much content in there was entertaining and relevant.

There was something in it for them, so they were prepared to give something back.

If you are only putting an employee magazine out every three months, and you are (presumably) spending a lot of money on it, then we must make sure it is something that your people will enjoy reading and look forward to.

So it’s important to get that balance of entertainment versus information and corporate content right.

Too much one way and it is frivolous, too much the other and no one will bother to even pick it up.

So while I don’t imagine that many IC mags will start looking like GQ any time soon, there is a lot we can learn from commercial magazines, and the tactics they use to get people to buy them, that we can employ to make employees more likely to pick our magazines up and engage with the content.

Reading a employee mag isn’t mandatory, so what makes it killer content above all the other things jostling for attention in the lives of your employees?